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Do Paul’s Missions Leave Us with a Geographic Pattern to Follow?

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 8:00pm

Paul’s missionary journeys do not mandate how we should do missions today, but we can certainly learn from the methods he used.

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Psalm 1:4–6: The Way of the Wicked Will Perish

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 12:11pm

When you see horrendous crimes committed without adequate justice served, remember, the wicked will perish before the judgment of God.

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Psalm 1:4–6: The Way of the Wicked Will Perish

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 8:01am

When you see horrendous crimes committed without adequate justice served, remember, the wicked will perish before the judgment of God.

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Heaven Would Be Hell Without God

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 8:02pm

The 1998 movie What Dreams May Come portrays heaven as a beautiful but lonely place for Chris Nielsen (played by Robin Williams) because, although his children were there, his wife wasn’t. Remarkably, someone else is entirely absent from the movie’s depiction of heaven: God.

That movie’s viewpoint mirrors numerous contemporary approaches to heaven which either leave God out or put him in a secondary role.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven, a best-selling novel by Mitch Albom, portrays a man who feels lonely and unimportant. He dies, goes to heaven, and meets five people who tell him his life really mattered. He discovers forgiveness and acceptance — all without God and without Christ as the object of saving faith.

This is a portrayal of a heaven that isn’t about God and our relationship with him, but only about human beings and our relationships with each other. A heaven where humanity is the cosmic center, and God plays a supporting role. The Bible knows nothing of this pseudo-heaven.

Numerous people claim to have gone to heaven and seen loved ones and even Jesus, yet almost never do they react as the beloved disciple, the apostle John, did: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).

Surely no one who had actually been in heaven would neglect to mention what Scripture shows is its main focus. If you had spent an evening dining with a king, you wouldn’t just talk about the place settings. When John was shown heaven and wrote about it, he recorded the details — but first and foremost, from beginning to end, he kept talking about Jesus, the Lion and the Lamb, with infinite gravitas and beauty.

Honeymoon Without a Groom?

Jesus promised his disciples, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3, NIV). For Christians, to die is “to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8, NKJV). The apostle Paul says, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23, NIV). He could have said, “I desire to depart and be in heaven,” but he didn’t — his mind was on being with Jesus.

Heaven without God would be like a honeymoon without a groom or a palace without a king. Teresa of Avila said, “Wherever God is, there is heaven.” The corollary: Wherever God is not, there is hell.

The presence of God is the essence of heaven. John Milton put it, “Thy presence makes our paradise, and where thou art is heaven.” Heaven will be a physical extension of God’s goodness.

Samuel Rutherford said, “O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee, it would be a hell; and if I could be in hell, and have thee still, it would be a heaven to me, for thou art all the heaven I want.” To be with God — to know him, to see him — is the central, irreducible draw of heaven.

Heaven’s Greatest Miracle

The best part of heaven on the new earth will be enjoying God’s presence. He’ll actually dwell among us (Revelation 21:3–4). Just as the Holy of Holies contained the dazzling presence of God in ancient Israel, so will the New Jerusalem contain his presence. The new earth’s greatest miracle will be our continual, unimpeded access to the God of everlasting splendor and perpetual delight.

What is the essence of eternal life? “That they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). The best part of heaven will be knowing and enjoying God.

Sam Storms writes, “We will constantly be more amazed with God, more in love with God, and thus ever more relishing his presence and our relationship with him. Our experience of God will never reach its consummation. . . . It will deepen and develop, intensify and amplify, unfold and increase, broaden and balloon.”

Reservoir That Never Runs Dry

Because he is beautiful beyond measure, if we knew nothing more than that heaven was God’s dwelling place, it would be more than enough to make us long to be there.

Of course, we will enjoy all the secondary gifts God gives us, but they will be derivative of God himself, and our happiness in them will be happiness in him. Jonathan Edwards said, “The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things . . . but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or each other, or in anything else whatsoever, that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what will be seen of God in them.”

“They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life” (Psalm 36:8–9). This passage portrays the joy that God’s creatures find in feasting on heaven’s abundance and drinking deeply of his delights. Notice that this river of delights flows from and is completely dependent on its source: God. He alone is the fountain of life, and without him there could be neither life nor abundance nor any delights.

Ultimate Wonder

We may imagine we want a thousand different things, but God is the one we really long for. “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). God’s presence brings satisfaction; his absence brings thirst and longing.

Our longing for heaven is a longing for God — a longing that involves not only our inner beings, but also our bodies. Being with God is the heart and soul of heaven. Every other heavenly pleasure will derive from and be secondary to his presence.

All our explorations and adventures and projects in the eternal heaven — and I believe there will be many — will pale in comparison to the wonder of being with God and entering into his happiness. Yet everything else we do will help us to know and worship God better.

God’s greatest gift to us is now, and always will be, nothing less than himself.

God, Open My Eyes

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 8:00am

Scripture sings with the glory of God in Christ. Plead with God every day to open your eyes to the beauty in his word.

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That Your Joy May Be Full: A Theology of Happiness

Sun, 04/22/2018 - 8:02pm

ABSTRACT: What is true happiness, where does it come from, and how do we find it? According to the Christian Scriptures, true happiness begins and ends with God. In the beginning, God’s Trinitarian happiness overflowed into a universe of delights. In the gospel, God gladly owned our poverty and misery in order to make us happy again in him. Now, by his Spirit, God himself dwells within his people, sharing his happiness freely and causing us to rejoice in him.

We asked professor and seminary president Scott Swain to tackle a theology of happiness in the first of a series of feature articles by scholars for pastors, leaders, and teachers. You can download and print a PDF of the article, as well as listen to an audio recording.

The Eudaimonia Machine is a work environment designed for what Cal Newport calls “deep work,” the state of undistracted, focused attention in which human beings are able to operate to the full extent of their creative capacities.1 This work environment “takes its name from the ancient Greek concept of eudaimonia (a state in which you’re achieving your full human potential).”2 Though the Eudaimonia Machine exists only in the mind of its architect, David Dewane, not yet in reality, it rests upon a valid insight. There is a relationship between our environment and our well-being. There are both objective and subjective dimensions to human flourishing, eudaimonia.

The Eudaimonia Machine also reveals that there are competing conceptions of human flourishing. While the Eudaimonia Machine suggests that human flourishing or happiness consists in productivity, others have argued that happiness consists in the possession of external goods such as wealth, honor, and fame, or that it consists in the possession of internal goods such as physical health or virtue.3 As Aristotle observed, the pursuit of happiness is unavoidable, but its character is not undisputed.

The phenomenon of happiness is disputed because our perception of happiness is both limited (due to our finitude) and liable to distortion (due to our fallenness). We disagree about whether happiness exists — is it truly achievable, or is it just a mirage? We disagree about what happiness is — does it lie in riches, wisdom, power, pleasure, fame? And we disagree about how happiness may be achieved — should we pursue the American Dream or audition for American Idol?

What Is True Happiness?

Christian theology enters the fray surrounding human flourishing and seeks to expound what God has disclosed about this topic in his word. In response to the question of whether happiness exists, Christian theology confesses that happiness exists, first, in “the happy God” (1 Timothy 1:11)4 and, second, in creatures designed and destined for happiness in communion with the happy God (Psalm 144:15). In response to the question regarding what happiness is, Christian theology confesses that happiness consists in possessing, knowing, and enjoying the supreme and unsurpassable good, God himself, the blessed Trinity. “I have no good apart from you,” the psalmist declares (Psalm 16:2). “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). And in response to the question of how happiness may be achieved, Christian theology confesses that divine happiness communicates itself to us, freely and abundantly, through the Mediator of happiness, Jesus Christ our Lord. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11; 17:13, 24–26).

In Jesus Christ, eternal, unchanging, and unsurpassable beatitude5 shines upon us and welcomes us into its all-satisfying presence. For now we enjoy a taste of this happiness on the pilgrim path of faith and repentance. One day we will drink fully and deeply from the infinite ocean of beatitude when we behold the triune God in the unmediated splendor of his personal presence, “face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12; Revelation 22:1–5). This is our “happy hope” (Titus 2:13): that the God who dwells in unapproachable light and unlimited delight will also dwell with us (Isaiah 57:15–19; 1 Timothy 6:16), that God will be our happy inheritance, our happy habitation (Psalm 16:5–6), and that we will flourish in his presence to his eternal glory (Psalm 1:3; Isaiah 33:24; 61:3).

What follows is an account of happiness from a theological perspective.6 We will address the topic of happiness by considering various elements within the order of beatitude — that order of happiness that begins in and with God, that freely flows from God in the creation, redemption, and consummation of creatures, and that returns to and rests in God.

Happiness Begins in God

A Christian account of happiness begins with the blessed Trinity, the primary form of happiness in the universe and the principle from and to which all other forms of happiness flow. As God is the supreme good (Mark 10:18), to be extolled above all by all at all times in all places (Psalm 145:1–3, 21), so also is he the supreme beatitude, “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15).

Along with divine perfection and divine glory, divine beatitude is a summative attribute. A summative attribute is not simply one attribute among others, but instead an attribute that characterizes all of God’s attributes. God’s wisdom, goodness, and power are perfect wisdom, perfect goodness, and perfect power. God’s wisdom, goodness, and power are, furthermore, glorious and beautiful. God’s wisdom, goodness, and power are therefore objects of God’s supreme beatitude, delight, and satisfaction. Divine perfection refers to the fullness of God’s being, the infinite riches of his wisdom, goodness, and power (Romans 11:33; Ephesians 2:4, 7; 3:8, 18–20). Divine glory refers to the beauty of God’s being, the utter clarity and intelligibility of God’s radiant life (Hebrews 1:3; 1 John 1:5). Divine beatitude, in turn, presupposes both divine perfection and divine glory.7 Divine beatitude refers to the satisfaction of God as he reposes in, rests in, and rejoices in the beauty of his perfect being. The blessed Trinity “dwells” in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:15–16). The Father rests in his radiant Son in the Spirit (Matthew 3:16–17) and, by the Spirit, the Son rejoices in the glory of the Father (Luke 10:21). Divine beatitude is “the happy land of the Trinity,”8 where, suffering no lack, the blessed Trinity reposes in the fullness of his luminous life.

God’s beatitude is simple.9 Nothing “makes” God happy. God does not “have” happiness. “God is happiness by his essence.”10 He is happy because he is who he is (Exodus 3:14). God’s beatitude is eternal. “The glory of the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11) is the glory of “the King of the ages” (1 Timothy 1:17), the glory of one who lacks beginning and end. God’s beatitude is immutable. Nothing can increase God’s happiness, and nothing can take it away (Job 22:2–3; 35:6–7; 41:11; Acts 17:25; Romans 11:35; James 1:17). God’s beatitude is impassible. Because God is perfect, he rests content in himself as his own final end. He desires no further completion, no further fulfillment from anything outside of himself. God lacks all desire, reposing in himself in infinitely realized delight. God’s impassible happiness is fully actualized happiness.11 For this reason, God’s will toward anything outside of himself is not an expression of desire but of pure benevolence.12 God wills and affirms the existence of creatures, without grudging, without envy (James 1:5).

Consequently, while divine beatitude is the supreme form of beatitude, it is not the exclusive form of beatitude. God’s blessedness is a communicative attribute — that is, an attribute that he shares with creatures. As the supreme good, God is also the supreme source of creaturely goods: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). And each creaturely good carries with it a distinct form of happiness for creatures capable of happiness. Some creaturely goods are worthy of our love: we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Other creaturely goods are not worthy of our love but are to be received and shared with our neighbors for our mutual enjoyment: wine gladdens the heart of man, oil makes his face shine, and bread strengthens his heart (Psalm 104:15). All creaturely goods are limited goods, and therefore sources of limited satisfaction, pleasure, and felicity. But all creaturely goods are true goods, and therefore sources of true satisfaction, pleasure, and felicity.

Christian teaching on happiness thus rules out disordered hedonism, which treats finite goods, objects of finite happiness, as if they were infinite goods, objects of infinite happiness (Matthew 6:31–33). Christian teaching on happiness also rules out false asceticism, which devalues finite goods, objects of finite happiness (1 Timothy 4:1–5). All creaturely goods, both material and social, are to be received “with thanksgiving” to the happy God who makes us happy through them (1 Timothy 4:4). Even in their finitude, they point to the one who is the transcendent good and the object of transcendent delight: our true food, our true drink, our true husband (Psalm 45; John 3:29; 6:35, 55). The blessed Trinity is thus the source and end of all creaturely goods, all objects of creaturely happiness within the order of beatitude.

God’s Happiness for His Creatures

In the work of creation, the blessed Trinity was pleased to produce manifold creatures, which exhibit manifold forms of goodness and which elicit manifold forms of satisfaction, pleasure, and happiness. Among God’s manifold creatures, God designed and destined certain creatures to be beneficiaries of both temporal and eternal beatitude. God made human beings, along with the angels, for a supreme and unsurpassable good that lies outside of themselves in communion with the blessed Trinity: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). Though God placed a natural appetite for eternity in the heart of human beings, natural revelation and natural reason are not sufficient to lead human beings to the eternal happiness that alone can satisfy our natural desire (Ecclesiastes 3:11) because eternal happiness transcends nature (Job 28). In his condescending goodness and by means of his word, God was pleased therefore to reveal to human beings both the object of eternal happiness, the blessed Trinity (Psalm 2), as well as the path that leads to eternal fellowship with him (Genesis 2:9, 16–17; Psalm 1; Mark 10:17).13 “You make known to me the path of life” (Psalm 16:11).

Created for eternal happiness in communion with God, man has nevertheless pierced himself through with many sorrows (Psalm 16:4; 1 Timothy 6:10) and plunged the entire creation into a state of corruption, pain, and futility (Romans 8:20–22) by transgressing the order of beatitude (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12–21). He has refused to make the knowledge of the blessed Trinity his supreme boast and, instead, has made his boast in creatures (Jeremiah 9:23; Romans 1:21–23, 25): “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:12–13). In forsaking the blessed Trinity, man has enslaved himself, along with his various appetites (2 Peter 2:12; 1 John 2:16), to the various creatures he was made to rule. He chases after food and clothing (Matthew 6:31–32), after the honor of man (John 5:44), and after the riches that (he believes) alone can afford them all (Matthew 6:24). And he engages in mortal combat with anyone who would impede the blind march of his pleasures and ambitions (James 4:1–3).

In all his senseless pursuits, he considers himself wise (Proverbs 26:12–16; Romans 1:22) but the path he has chosen “is the path of those who have foolish confidence” (Psalm 49:13). The temporary happiness he gains for himself is deceptive: “For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed — and though you get praise when you do well for yourself — his soul will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never again see light” (Psalm 49:18–19). His path does not lead to the eternal happiness appointed for human beings by God but to a beastly ruin: “Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:20).

God’s Happiness to Show Mercy

Due to their rebellion against God, human beings are objects of the divine wrath that “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18; see also Ephesians 2:3). But the God who is “full of wrath” (Psalm 78:21) is also “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). The blessed and triune God is compassionate toward miserable sinners, determined to bring them out of the misery they have inherited from Adam into the happiness he has appointed for them in and through Jesus Christ. The saving mercy of God toward miserable sinners is the undivided operation of all three persons of the Trinity. As the three persons are one God, so they are agents of one merciful agency. However, in mercy’s threefold movement from its initiation through its accomplishment to its result, specific persons of the Trinity shine forth in specific ways.14 Accordingly, in the undivided operation of saving mercy, the love of God the Father shines forth distinctly in mercy’s initiation, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ shines forth distinctly in mercy’s accomplishment, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit shines forth distinctly in mercy’s result (2 Corinthians 13:14). Out of the Father’s love, by the Son’s grace, and within the Spirit’s fellowship, the blessed Trinity makes miserable sinners blessed in him.

The mercy of the blessed Trinity toward miserable sinners begins in “the love of God” (2 Corinthians 13:14): “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us . . . ” (Ephesians 2:4). Mercy’s fountain is the pure benevolence of God the Father toward undeserving “vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23). The Father’s pure benevolence regards neither the good nor the bad (Romans 9:11), neither human will nor human exertion (Romans 9:16) in the objects of his mercy. He only regards his “purpose of election” (Romans 9:11), his purpose of making his beloved Son the firstborn among many redeemed brothers and sisters (Romans 8:28–29; Ephesians 1:9–10), “that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18). “Of him” — of the Father’s love — “you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30–31). The love of God thus initiates the mercy that secures our beatitude in Christ the King.

God’s Happiness Through His Son

The mercy of the blessed Trinity toward miserable sinners is accomplished by “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 13:14): “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being rich, he made himself poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Mercy is accomplished by the pure grace of God the Son in his mediatorial person and work. “Being rich . . . ” The Son of God knows the riches of divine beatitude by nature and by messianic appointment. From before the foundation of the world, the eternal Son has basked in the pleasure of the Father’s face and shared in the fullness of the Father’s joy (Psalm 16:11; John 1:1; 17:24). From before the foundation of the world, the eternal Son has been “anointed with the oil of gladness beyond [his] companions” (Psalm 45:7), and he has been appointed to bring his people “with joy and gladness” into “the palace of the king” (Psalm 45:15). The Son of God is a happy Messiah, eternally rich in the happiness of God, appointed and anointed to make his people happy through marital union with him. In Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, all the secondary and derivative goods of creation find their primary form and supreme fulfillment. He is the light of the world (John 8:12), the bread of life (John 6:35), the bridegroom (John 3:29): our light, our life, our royal bridegroom, who brings poor vile sinners into his house of wine (Genesis 49:11–12).15

How does the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ bring these glad tidings to pass? “He made himself poor.” Without ceasing to be the eternally rich God by nature, the Son of God willingly assumed our poor humanity into personal union with himself in the virgin’s womb. Rich and happy in himself, he was happy to own our poverty and misery: “God of God, Light of Light; Lo, he abhors not the virgin’s womb.”16 To what end? Not to gain happiness or riches for himself, but to communicate his happiness and riches to us (Mark 10:45): “so that you through his poverty might become rich.” For our sakes, the incarnate Son of God obeyed the order of beatitude. He became the “happy man” of Psalm 1 who did not walk in the counsel of the wicked, did not stand in the way of sinners, and did not sit in the seat of scoffers. He delighted in the law of the Lord, and he meditated upon it day and night. The Lord made known to him “the path of life,” and he traversed that path to its divinely appointed destination in God’s presence, where there is “fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).

By the Lord’s appointment, however, traversing this path to the joy that was set before him required him to endure the cross for our sake (Hebrews 12:2). Because our sin is the cause of our misery, our misery could only be removed when our sin had been replaced with his obedience and when our sin’s punishment had been executed upon his head. And so the incarnate Son of God became a “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3). Though his contemporaries esteemed him a God-forsaken sinner (Isaiah 53:4), “it was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10), not because of his own sins but because of ours: “he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 54:4); “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). As a consequence of his obedience and sin-bearing death on our behalf, we inherit peace and healing (Isaiah 53:5), righteousness and riches (Isaiah 53:10–12). Through his poverty, we are enriched.

The incarnate Son of God, who secured riches of mercy for us through his humiliation and poverty, bestows these riches upon us from his exalted place at the right hand of the Father as the head of his body, the church. In union with the incarnate, crucified, and exalted Son of God, we are reconciled to the order of beatitude. “The oil of gladness” (Psalm 45:7) with which he is anointed flows, by the Spirit, from the head to the body, filling it with the fullness of divine beatitude (Psalm 133:2). Filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 1:22–23), our pleasure in the once-slain, now-reigning Lamb is perfected in his praise (Ephesians 5:18–21): “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12). “How good and pleasant it is” to “dwell in unity” with the incarnate Son of God, the redeemer and head of his people (Psalm 133:1)!

God’s Happiness by His Spirit

The mercy of the blessed Trinity toward miserable sinners reaches its goal in “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:14). As the loving purpose of God the Father is fulfilled in the self-giving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, so the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, having fulfilled the purpose of God the Father, abounds in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit through the agencies of the word (Ephesians 3:1–13), the sacraments (1 Corinthians 10:16; Ephesians 4:5), and prayer (Ephesians 3:14–21). Having communicated to us the free gift of justification, the Spirit awakens us to the new order of beatitude inaugurated through Jesus’s death and resurrection and assures us of our eternal inheritance in God: “But when the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4–7).

The Spirit enables us to possess and perceive the mercy purposed by the Father and purchased by the Son. The Spirit, who searches the depths of divine beatitude (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), shows the depths of God’s mercy to us and bestows the depths of God’s mercy upon us: “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). The mercy purposed by the Father and purchased by the Son is, furthermore, a mercy ordered to “fellowship,” the mutual possession and sharing of goods with God and neighbor. The Spirit enables us to see and receive the goods of heaven and earth, of this age and the age to come, as they really are: as gifts that radiate outward from the throne of the blessed and triune God. The Spirit then enables us to return these goods in sacrifices of praise, honor, and thanksgiving to the triune God (Galatians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Hebrews 13:15; Revelation 4–5) and to share these goods, both spiritual and physical, with our neighbors (Romans 12:3–8; Hebrews 13:16; 1 Peter 4:10–11).

God’s Own Happiness in His People

By the Spirit, God pours his love into our hearts and awakens in our hearts the love of God and neighbor (Romans 5:5; 1 John 4:10, 12–13, 19). The love poured into our hearts by the Spirit trains us rightly to affirm the being and well-being of God and of all things in relation to God, and it trains us rightly to exchange the goods of heaven and earth in fellowship with God and all things in relation to God. Such love is the bond of perfection in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (Colossians 3:14), the good that surpasses all others in the order of beatitude (1 Corinthians 13:13).

And so, by the mercy of God, the blessed Trinity makes miserable sinners blessed in him. Flowing from the Father’s love in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, by his humiliation and exaltation, causes his joy to dwell in us and thereby makes our joy full (John 15:11). The Father, who rests in his Son by the Spirit, and the Son, who by the Spirit rejoices in his Father, by the same Spirit come to rest in us, causing us to rejoice in them (John 14:23).

Footnotes

1Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (New York: Grand Central, 2016), 95.

2Newport, 95.

3Thomas Aquinas surveys these various options, and finds each of them wanting, in Summa Theologiæ, I-II.2.1–8 (hereafter ST).

4Throughout I cite the ESV, albeit with frequent modification.

5A few comments on terminology are in order. First, “beatitude,” as I use it in this article (along with terms such as “happiness,” “felicity,” “blessedness,” etc.) refers to the state of being in which a person possesses goods (both objective and subjective) that are necessary for that person’s wholeness, fulfillment, and satisfaction. Second, the Bible primarily uses two terms,‎ אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי and μακάριος, along with a host of other terms, descriptions, images, etc., to refer to “beatitude” as I define it here. The ESV commonly translates both terms as “blessed” (e.g., Psalm 1:1; Matthew 5:3). Though this is a perfectly suitable translation, being “blessed” can connote “being the object of God’s blessing,” which is a slightly different concept than “being in a state of beatitude or well-being.” The two concepts, of course, are related, but they are represented by different terms in both Hebrew and Greek that carry slightly different significance. Third, in contemporary usage, “happiness” often refers merely to a person’s subjective state of well-being. In this article, I use the term with fuller reference, referring to both objective and subjective aspects of beatitude. This is essential because, according to the Bible, one can be in a state of beatitude even while experiencing sorrow (Matthew 5:4).

6I have attempted to provide a much shorter account of these matters at http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2016/01/on-happiness-a-theological-out.php.

7To say that divine beatitude “presupposes” divine perfection and divine glory is to say something about the way we come to understand God’s attributes. We can only understand what divine beatitude involves by understanding first what divine perfection and divine glory involve.

8This happy turn of phrase comes from Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, 2nd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), chap. 2.

9The doctrine of divine simplicity teaches, negatively, that God is not composed of parts upon which he might depend to be who and what he is. It teaches, positively, that God is identical with his attributes. The doctrine of divine simplicity rests upon biblical teaching that God is who he is (Exodus 3:14): the self-existent one, whose being and attributes do not depend upon anything (John 5:26), and the self-same one, whose being is identical with his attributes (1 John 1:5).

10Aquinas, ST, I-II.3.1.

11Maximus the Confessor, “Ambiguum 7: On the Beginning and End of Rational Creatures,” in On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003), 45–74.

12“Desire,” as I use the term here, refers to something a bit more specific than “wanting something.” It refers to “wanting some good that one lacks.” Its terminological correlate is “delight,” which refers to “wanting some good that one possesses.” “Desire” longs for an unpossessed good, while “delight” relishes in a possessed good. In the sense of the term as I am using it here, therefore, God does not “desire” his creatures for the very simple reason that God’s will with respect to creatures does not arise from a lack that the possession of creatures might fulfill. For further discussion of these dynamics, see Paul J. Griffiths, Intellectual Appetite: A Theological Grammar (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2009), chap. 7.

13Westminster Confession of Faith, 7.1.

14For further discussion of “the doctrine of appropriations,” see Scott R. Swain, “Divine Trinity,” in Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology for the Church Catholic, ed. Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 103–4. See also: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/02/a-trinitarian-theology-of-salv.php.

15The language of the last part of this sentence comes from the final verse of Anne Cousin’s hymn “The Sands of Time Are Sinking” (1857).

16John Francis Wade, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” (1743).

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Why Will Some of Us Get Fewer Rewards in Heaven?

Sun, 04/22/2018 - 8:00pm

There will be no envy in heaven. Perfect love will reign. Those who have more will have humility; those who have less will rejoice in others’ gifts.

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The Impossible Calling of the Christian Preacher

Sat, 04/21/2018 - 8:03pm

Christian preacher, your calling is astounding. Indeed, your life is astounding. I hope you are amazed at your miraculous existence in Christ. As a Christian, you are not unique, but you are astounding.

Astounding Existence

When Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by “the immeasurable greatness of the power” of the Creator, he “was seated at the right hand” of God in heaven (Ephesians 1:19–20). That is where the God-man is today. Waiting for the last trumpet. As I write, there he is. As you preach, there he is.

Then after telling us that Christ is sitting at God’s right hand, Paul tells us that you are sitting there with him. Now. Today.

God made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:5–6)

He put you there when he made you alive — made you a new creation. This is done. Not will be done. But done. You, Christian preacher, today sit with Jesus at the right hand of God.

“Your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3–4). Glory now, unsurpassed. Then, at his coming, glory unconcealed. Christian preacher, are you astounded at your life?

Astounding Calling

Your calling to preach is astounding! You share in Paul’s calling from the Lord Jesus, do you not? You know what Jesus said to him:

“I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:17–18)

You are called to do what only God can do — open the eyes of the blind — the blind who cannot see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Only the Creator of the universe can say, “Let there be light!” in the sin-and-Satan-blinded heart — and expect the blind to see. And this is exactly what he says into blind hearts.

He has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Be Astounded God Saves Through You

If that is not astounding enough — that God gives blind sinners a real sight of his glory in the face of Christ, and raises them from spiritual death — then add this: he does this through you. Through your preaching! You. A mere man. A sinful, finite, fallible, called servant of the risen Christ.

Since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

When you herald the glories of God in Christ, God saves. God opens the eyes of the heart (Ephesians 1:18). He shines with the glory of Christ. He makes this beauty joyfully irresistible. Be astounded, Christian preacher, that God saves sinners through your preaching.

To experience this is thrilling. Just today I received a letter from a man who was converted through the preaching of several pastors. I was one. He wrote,

[He] continued to expound the next few verses, and in that moment everything clicked. God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, had shown me that I had cried out to Jesus because he had given me to him, that Jesus was never going to cast me out, and his will was that I would never be lost. I started to weep for joy and was filled with the most wonderful sensation of warmth and comfort. Since that day, I’ve found that God has placed in my heart the desire to seek him daily, conform every aspect of my life to his word, and fight sin in my life.

Astounding Preamble to a Great Command

Preaching is not just teaching. It is not just giving counsel. It is not discussing. Preaching is heartfelt heralding of the reality communicated by the inspired spokesmen of God himself in the Bible.

Paul says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Then he says, “Preach the word!” (2 Timothy 4:2). That is, “Herald (Greek kērussō) the word!” And in between this highest of all praises of Scripture (God-breathed), and this command to “Herald the word,” comes the most astounding preamble in the Bible to a great command.

This preamble turns the command to herald the word into an exalted, solemn, supremely weighty adjuration:

I charge you
in the presence of God
and of Christ Jesus,
who is to judge the living
and the dead,
and by his appearing
and his kingdom . . . preach the word! (2 Timothy 4:1–2)

I know of nothing quite like this in all the Bible. This is an unparalleled preparation for a three-word command. The heralding of the word of God is in obedience to a solemn, apostolic “charge.” This charge-empowered preaching happens “in the presence of God,” the Creator of all things.

It happens “in the presence of Christ Jesus,” God’s Son. It happens in the light of a great final “judgment” by the very one we preach. It happens — always happens — in the presence of those who will be judged, whether living or dead. It happens in the certainty of Christ’s personal appearing on this planet. And it happens in the power and presence of Christ’s all-encompassing “kingdom.”

Brothers, your calling to preach is astounding!

Stay awake to the wonder of your calling. If you are not awake to it, neither will be your people. And that would be tragic.

Astounding Privileges of Preaching

You get to stand before God’s people and tell them the greatest realities in the world. You get to exult with them over the most exalted truths in the universe. You get to explain to them the most mysterious wonders ever conceived in the mind of God. For you are “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1).

You get to represent the highest authority in the world — “God making his appeal through you: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). You get to meditate day and night, as your vocation, on realities that are more valuable than gold and silver. You get to chew on, and savor, and speak the most delicious truths that exist — truths that are sweeter than honey and drippings from the honeycomb (Psalm 19:10) — sweeter than the most intense sweetness in the world.

God has filled your mouth not just with truth, but beautiful truth, infinitely valuable truth, profoundly satisfying truth. This is why your job is preaching, not just teaching. Preaching, not just explaining. Preaching, not just discussing or debating or defending. God created the uniqueness of preaching because of the uniqueness of the reality communicated in his inspired words.

Explaining and Exulting

Yes, those words, and that reality, must be explained. Preaching includes exposition of biblical texts, or it is not preaching. Ultimate reality — glorious reality — comes to us through written texts. But careful exposition is not preaching. Not yet.

Preaching is the effect of astounding, truth-carried, text-mediated, Spirit-revealed reality. And that effect is not boredom. It is not emotional neutrality. It is not lukewarm. It is not silliness, or cleverness, or levity. It is not mawkish emotionalism. It is not melodramatic pathos. It is not pseudo solemnity.

The effect of astounding, truth-carried, text-mediated, Spirit-revealed reality in preaching is exultation over the word. Or more precisely, it is the overflow of the lips from Spirit-wakened emotion appropriate to the reality in the text. But it is never neutral. Emotionally blank preaching does not embody the reality of the text; it betrays it.

Preaching is heartfelt heralding of the reality communicated by the inspired writers of God’s word, the Bible. I call it “expository exultation.” It is not one or the other — exposition or exultation. It is both at once. The calling of the Christian preacher is to illumine the mind by our exposition of God’s words, and to enliven the heart with the glory they carry.

This is astounding. Indeed impossible. For man. Illumine the blind. Enliven the dead. That is an astounding calling. The path on which the miracle happens I call expository exultation.

If you wonder what more is meant by this description of preaching, I have tried to deliver my burden in the book Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship. I hope you find in it a path, and through it a power, toward the astounding calling of Christian preaching.

Psalm 1:4–6: The Righteous Are Not the Perfect

Sat, 04/21/2018 - 8:00am

“Righteousness” has a double meaning in the New Testament. Do you know what those meanings are?

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Have You Buried Your Gifts?

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 8:02pm

You have been given talents. Do you know what they are? Do you know how valuable they are? God has given them to you to invest. And someday he will hold you accountable for how you stewarded them.

It’s a sobering thought — and necessarily so. It’s meant to be. But it is also meant to be very liberating.

“Talents” come from Jesus — both the English word and what the English word means. The word is in our lexicon because of Jesus’s parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14–30). In this parable, a master entrusts each of his servants with a certain number of talents to invest while the master is gone on a journey.

To Jesus’s original hearers, a talent meant a very large unit of monetary value. People whose net worth equaled a talent were very well off. People whose net worth equaled numerous talents were rich. But this parable is not really about stewarding money. It is about stewarding the gifts and abilities God entrusts to us. This is why the English word “talents” doesn’t mean money, but gifts and abilities. When we say someone is talented, we don’t mean they’re rich; we mean they’re gifted.

Talents Are Grace-Gifts

The first thing to notice about the servants in Jesus’s parable is that they are given their talents: “to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability” (Matthew 25:15). The master wasn’t obligated to give the servants anything. Each servant received his talents by the grace of the master.

The implication of this is clear: none of us has any ground for boasting in our “talents.” What is true about receiving the gospel is true about receiving talents: “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

But Jesus includes an important phrase in Matthew 25:15: “he gave . . . talents . . . to each according to his ability.” In English this can be a bit confusing, since “talents” and “abilities” can be synonyms. It can sound as if Jesus is saying God gives us abilities according to our abilities. But in Greek the meaning is clearer. The word translated “abilities” in this sentence is dunamis, which most commonly means power or capabilities.

What Jesus is getting at here is that God graciously entrusts to his servants certain skills and a certain amount of power to employ them. God gives us certain abilities and certain capabilities.

Talents Are Valuable

The second thing to notice is that in choosing talents as the metaphor for the abilities God entrusts to us, Jesus makes clear to us that God values highly the gifts he gives us.

It’s nearly impossible to convert the value of a first century talent into modern currency. But in trying to give us some sense of its actual buying power, some scholars estimate a talent could have been worth as much as $600,000.

Assuming this value for the sake of illustration, one servant in Jesus’s parable received $3,000,000 (five talents), another received $1,200,000 (two talents), and another received $600,000 (one talent). It’s feasible the “less talented” servants might have envied “more talented” ones. But in reality, no servant’s stewardship was insignificant. Each received something of great value.

This also has a clear implication: we must not undervalue what we have been given. Some are given more, some are given less, but all are given much. And Jesus tells us “everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48).

This is why the master was so angry at the servant who did nothing with the talent he was given (Matthew 25:26–27). The servant blamed the master’s character for his lack of diligence (Matthew 25:24–25). But the master saw through this smoke screen and called the servant what he was: “wicked and slothful” (Matthew 25:26).

These are words we never want to hear from our Master. This parable is meant to strike the appropriate fear of God in us and force us to ask what we are doing with the grace that has been given to us.

The Grace Given to You

Paul loved that phrase: “the grace given.” He used it in referring to himself:

  • “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you . . . ” (Romans 12:3). Here Paul recognized God had entrusted to him unique authority as an apostle.
  • “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation” (1 Corinthians 3:10). God had entrusted to him unique abilities (talents) to plant churches among the unreached and lay the theological foundation for the Christian church.
  • “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). God had entrusted to him unique capabilities (dunamis) to exercise his unique authority and employ his unique abilities.

He also used this phrase about us:

  • “Having [spiritual] gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them . . . in proportion to our faith” (Romans 12:6).
  • “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7).

All these texts regarding “the grace given to us” reinforce Jesus’s point in the parable of the talents: 1) God gives us certain grace-gifts (talents), 2) God gives us a certain amount of power to invest them, and 3) God expects us to employ all the strength he supplies (1 Peter 4:11) to invest what he entrusts to us.

Sobering and Liberating

So we must each ask: what are we doing with our talents — with the grace God has given to us? It’s a sobering and liberating question.

It’s sobering because we know our own selfishness, that we are prone by our sin nature to act like the worthless servant who neglected his stewardship. But even such sobering reflection is a grace, because it can shake us out of our self-centered stupor and motivate us to greater diligence.

But the question is also wonderfully liberating, for at least two reasons: 1) God himself supplies us with everything we need, both our talents and our strength to manage them — both our abilities and our capabilities. 2) Realizing this frees us from comparing ourselves with others. We can be free from envying servants who are more talented and/or have greater capacities than we do. And we can be free from judging servants who are less talented and/or have lesser capacities than we do. God is the talent and power-giver, and he holds each of us accountable only for the “grace given to us.”

You have been given talents. They are valued very highly by the Lord. What are you doing with them? Let this question sober you and liberate you. For to every servant who is faithful with the talents entrusted to him, the Master will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23). This is what we want to hear.

Invest your talents well, for the joy.

God Drove a Nail Through Your Guilt

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 8:00am

As far as the east is from the west, God has removed our transgressions from us. Jesus took our debt and paid it on the cross.

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His Suffering Sparked a Movement: David Brainerd (1718–1747)

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 8:02pm

His life was short — 29 years, 5 months, and 19 days. And only eight of those years as a Christian. Only four as a missionary. And yet few lives have sent ripples so far and so wide as David Brainerd’s.

Why has his life made the impact that it has? Why did John Wesley say, “Let every preacher read carefully over the Life of David Brainerd”? Why did William Carey regard Jonathan Edwards’s Life of David Brainerd as precious and holy? Why did Henry Martyn (missionary to India and Persia) write, as a student in Cambridge in 1802, “I long to be like him!” (Life of David Brainerd, 4)?

Why has this life had such a remarkable influence? Or perhaps I should pose a more modest and manageable question: Why does it have such an impact on me? How has it helped me to press on in the ministry and to strive for holiness and divine power and fruitfulness in my life?

The answer is that Brainerd’s life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints who cry to him day and night to accomplish amazing things for his glory. There is great fruit in their afflictions. To illustrate this, we will look first at Brainerd’s struggles, then at how he responded to them, and finally at how God used him with all his weaknesses.

Brainerd’s Struggles

Three hundred years ago today, Brainerd was born on April 20, 1718, in Haddam, Connecticut, and was converted at age 21. During his third year at Yale, where he was preparing for pastoral ministry, someone overheard the zealous Brainerd say that one of his tutors had “no more grace than a chair.” The Great Awakening had already created tension between awakened students and the seemingly less spiritual faculty and staff, so Brainerd, despite being at the top of his class, was summarily expelled.

Though he tried again and again over the next several years to make things right, Yale never readmitted him. God had another plan for Brainerd. Instead of a quiet six years in the pastorate or lecture hall, followed by death and little historical impact for Christ’s kingdom, God meant to drive him into the wilderness that he might suffer for his sake and have an incalculable influence on the history of missions.

A Broken Body

Brainerd struggled with almost constant sickness.

He had to drop out of college for some weeks because he had begun to cough up blood in 1740. In May 1744, he journaled, “Rode several hours in the rain through the howling wilderness, although I was so disordered in body that little or nothing but blood came from me” (Life of David Brainerd, 247). Now and again he would write something like, “In the afternoon my pain increased exceedingly; and was obliged to betake myself to bed. . . . Was sometimes almost bereaved of the exercise of my reason by the extremity of pain” (253).

In May of 1747, at Jonathan Edwards’s house, the doctors told him that he had incurable consumption and did not have long to live (447). Edwards comments that in the week before Brainerd died, “He told me it was impossible for any to conceive of the distress he felt in his breast. He manifested much concern lest he should dishonor God by impatience under his extreme agony; which was such that he said the thought of enduring it one minute longer was almost insupportable.” The night before he died he said to those around him that “it was another thing to die than people imagined” (475–476).

A Despairing Mind

Brainerd struggled with recurring depression. He was tormented again and again with the most desperate discouragements. And the marvel is that he survived and kept going at all.

He often called his depression a kind of death. There are at least 22 places in the diary where he longed for death as a freedom from his misery. For example, Sunday, February 3, 1745, he wrote, “My soul remembered ‘the wormwood and the gall’ (I might almost say hell) of Friday last; and I was greatly afraid I should be obliged again to drink of that ‘cup of trembling,’ which was inconceivably more bitter than death, and made me long for the grave more, unspeakably more, than for hid treasures” (285).

Only in retrospect did he see himself as a “suitable object for the compassion of Jesus Christ.” But in the hours of darkness, he could sometimes feel no sense of hope or love or fear. This is the most fearful side of depression, since the natural restraints on suicide begin to vanish. But unlike William Cowper, Brainerd was spared the suicidal drive. His wishes for death were all restrained within the bounds of the biblical truth “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21). He wishes for death many times, but only that God would take him (Life of David Brainerd, 172, 183, 187, 215, 249, for example).

It is simply amazing how often Brainerd pressed on with the practical necessities of his work in the face of these waves of discouragement. This has no doubt endeared him to many missionaries who know firsthand the kinds of pain he endured.

A Lonely Soul

He tells of having to endure the profane talk of two strangers one night in April of 1743 and says, “Oh, I longed that some dear Christian knew my distress!” (204). A month later he says, “Most of the talk I hear is either Highland Scotch or Indian. I have no fellow Christian to whom I might unbosom myself and lay open my spiritual sorrows, and with whom I might take sweet counsel in conversation about heavenly things, and join in social prayer” (207). This misery made him sometimes shrink back from going off on another venture. He wrote on Tuesday, May 8, 1744, “My heart sometimes was ready to sink with the thoughts of my work, and going alone in the wilderness, I knew not where” (248).

Brainerd was alone in his ministry to the end. During the last nineteen weeks of his life, Jerusha Edwards, Jonathan Edwards’s 17-year-old daughter, was his nurse, and many speculate that there was deep (even romantic) love between them. But in the wilderness and in the ministry, he was alone and could pour out his soul only to God. And God bore him and kept him going.

Brainerd’s Response

We could go on to describe Brainerd’s other struggles — his immense external hardships, his bleak outlook on nature, his trouble to love the Indians, his temptations to leave the field — but we turn now to how Brainerd responded to these struggles.

What we are struck with immediately is that he pressed on. One of the main reasons Brainerd’s life has such powerful effects on people is that, in spite of all his struggles, he never gave up his faith or his ministry. He was consumed with a passion to finish his race, and honor his Master, and spread the kingdom, and advance in personal holiness. It was this unswerving allegiance to the cause of Christ that makes the bleakness of his life glow with glory.

Among all the means that Brainerd used for pursuing greater and greater holiness and usefulness, prayer and fasting stand out above all. We read of him spending whole days in prayer. Wednesday, June 30, 1742: “Spent almost the whole day in prayer incessantly” (172). Sometimes he set aside as many as six periods in the day to pray: “Blessed be God, I had much freedom five or six times in the day, in prayer and praise, and felt a weighty concern upon my spirit for the salvation of those precious souls and the enlargement of the Redeemer’s kingdom among them” (280).

And along with prayer, Brainerd pursued holiness and usefulness with fasting. Again and again in his diary, he tells of days spent in fasting. One of the most remarkable, in view of how most of us celebrate our birthdays, is the fast on his 25th birthday:

Wednesday, April 20. Set apart this day for fasting and prayer, to bow my soul before God for the bestowment of divine grace; especially that all my spiritual afflictions and inward distresses might be sanctified to my soul. . . . My soul was pained to think of my barrenness and deadness; that I have lived so little to the glory of the eternal God. I spent the day in the woods alone, and there poured out my complaint to God. Oh, that God would enable me to live to his glory for the future! (205)

The Fruit of Brainerd’s Affliction

As a result of the immense impact of Brainerd’s devotion on his life, Jonathan Edwards wrote, in the next two years, The Life of David Brainerd, which has been reprinted more often than any of Edwards’s other books. And through this Life, the impact of Brainerd on the church has been incalculable. Beyond all the famous missionaries who tell us that they have been sustained and inspired by Brainerd’s Life, how many countless other unknown faithful servants must there be who have found from Brainerd’s testimony the encouragement and strength to press on!

It is an inspiring thought that one small pebble dropped in the sea of history can produce waves of grace that break on distant shores hundreds of years later and thousands of miles away. Robert Glover ponders this thought with wonder when he writes,

It was Brainerd’s holy life that influenced Henry Martyn to become a missionary and was a prime factor in William Carey’s inspiration. Carey in turn moved Adoniram Judson. And so we trace the spiritual lineage from step to step — Hus, Wycliffe, Francke, Zinzendorf, the Wesleys and Whitefield, Brainerd, Edwards, Carey, Judson, and ever onward in the true apostolic succession of spiritual grace and power and world-wide ministry. (The Progress of World-Wide Missions, 56)

But the most lasting and significant effect of Brainerd’s ministry is the same as the most lasting and significant effect of every pastor’s ministry. There are a few Indians — perhaps several hundred — who, now and for eternity, owe their everlasting life to the direct love and ministry of David Brainerd.

Who can describe the value of one soul transferred from the kingdom of darkness, and from weeping and gnashing of teeth, to the kingdom of God’s dear Son? If we live 29 years, or if we live 99 years, would not any hardships be worth the saving of one person from the eternal torments of hell for the everlasting enjoyment of the glory of God?

Onward and Upward

I thank God for the ministry of David Brainerd in my own life — the passion for prayer, the spiritual feast of fasting, the sweetness of the word of God, the unremitting perseverance through hardship, the relentless focus on the glory of God, the utter dependence on grace, the final resting in the righteousness of Christ, the pursuit of perishing sinners, the holiness while suffering, the fixing of the mind on what is eternal, and finishing well without cursing the disease that cut him down at age 29. With all his weaknesses and imbalances and sins, I love David Brainerd.

Oh, that God would grant us a persevering grace to spread a passion for his supremacy in all things, like Brainerd, for the joy of all peoples! Life is too precious to squander on trivial things. Grant us, Lord, the unswerving resolve to pray and live with David Brainerd’s urgency: “Oh, that I might never loiter on my heavenly journey!” (186).

Will Profanity Make Us More Relevant in Reaching Our Culture?

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 8:00pm

Crude language won’t transform the culture. It won’t convict sinners. It may make us more relatable, but in the end it will backfire.

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Give Your Anxious Mind a Rest: Letter to My 30-Year-Old Self

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 11:02am

If you are prone to worry and anxiety, your mind may need a rest. The endless worries and stresses that are churning in you day and night are not helping you to be better at what you do, or to become a better person. They are threatening to replace your relationship with Christ, steal your peace, and inhibit your ability to display the glory of God. I should know. Half a lifetime ago, I was an anxious 30-year-old wife and mother.

Admittedly, “resting” one’s mind can be a great challenge. We can’t just stop the flow of anxious thoughts and worries that bombard our minds virtually every moment of our waking (and often dreaming) hours. No, we can’t completely shut them down, but because God grants the power for us to begin to develop the mind of Christ, who clearly was not consumed with worry or anxiety, there is hope we can train our minds to slow down anxious thoughts and quiet them with truth (Romans 12:2).

In Whatever Situation?

When I begin to feel mounting anxiety or worry, I have looked to the apostle Paul. His life in Christ was so unbelievably more challenging and anxiety-producing than mine ever will be, yet he could say with authority, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). He was familiar with “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). But how does that work? How do we find confidence, peace, and joy in Jesus in the midst of the daily challenges and stresses we face?

Compared to Paul, I am a very slow learner, but when I think back over my Christian life, here are two truths I wish I would have understood better at a younger age.

Forgetting Who We Are

First, mindfully live as who you are in Christ. Paul didn’t simply believe in Christ with his mind and heart; he understood that life in Christ completely transforms who we are. Paul had been a passionate, but blind and dead, person chasing all the wrong things and pleasing the wrong people. When Christ broke through his blindness, he literally left behind his worldly Pharisee self. He began to look at himself, others, and his purpose in life in light of the new freedom, assurance, and calling he had received from Christ.

He meant it when he said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). To experience real peace, our minds need to embrace the completely different reality we entered when we were born again.

In my twenties and thirties, though I believed deeply in God, had an overflowing heart of worship and gratitude for Jesus, was growing in my knowledge of God’s word and love for him, and enjoyed a rich prayer life, I still really struggled to be at peace in the circumstances of life.

Real-world circumstances — sleepless nights, endless diapers, and other mindless daily duties related to caring for little ones, the tremendous burden of responsibility training up my children in the way that they should go, understanding how to nurture my marriage amid the demands of being parents, learning to be comfortable with the comparative lowly status of being a stay-at-home mom in an achieving world, wrestling with lust for material things, and so on — all threw gasoline on the brittle tinder of my anxious mind.

My default responses to worry and stress over and feel responsible for these things got in the way of my being able to live in, and benefit from, the new identity I inherited when I surrendered my life to Jesus.

Trusting What God Has Said

In other words, though I believed them, peace comes in daily living in the light of the truths Paul understood so well, and I failed to appropriate them enough to rest in them. Promises such as:

  • The God of the universe has chosen me and loved me, and was willing to sacrifice his own Son that he might call me his daughter (1 Peter 2:9; Ephesians 1:3–10). The Creator God has claimed me! What love matters more than this?

  • This God has erased all uncertainties about my future by adopting me as his own (Romans 8:14–17; Revelation 3:5). And the future is amazing (Revelation 21:4; Romans 8:18)!

  • This God is working good for me in all things because I love him and have been called to his purposes (Romans 8:28). He is not waiting to punish me or my loved ones if I get it wrong.

  • This God holds every minute of every day (Psalm 139:1–6; Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16–17). If a challenge is before me, he put it there.

  • This God empowers me to do what he calls me to do (2 Corinthians 12:9; 1 John 4:4).

  • This God is with me. He promises he will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5; Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:9). I am never alone. Nothing can separate me from the love of this God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35–39).

If these things are true, why should I care what a sinful and ultimately doomed world thinks is important? Why should I obsess over what other equally sinful people think of me? Why should I lust after material things that are destined to end up in a trash heap? Why should I worry about earthly “success” when I already have everything? How can I doubt that the all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful God will equip me for all he calls me to do? How can I even worry so much about my children when I know he holds them and their future? In all things, God has got this.

I wish I could have appropriated these promises more fully when I was young. Not only would I have been far more content in life’s daily challenges and in my perception of myself; I would have been far more effective in every aspect of my life and a greater blessing to my family and all around me.

The World on Our Shoulders

We may think we trust God, but our perpetual insecurity, worry, and anxiety tell the real story. Have you ever felt guilty for feeling at peace? Like somehow if you are not worried about something or someone, you don’t care enough?

Trusting God in the challenges of life not only gives us greater peace; it is a powerful example to others and a glorious display of God’s glory.

Our worry and anxiety do not help the people we love. In fact, our lack of peace probably fuels worry, anxiety, and guilt in them, too. While we have the opportunity to contribute positively, the well-being of our loved ones or the world around us does not rest on our shoulders. Imagine the good we would do our children if what they sensed in us was peace and trust in God in all circumstances?

God is lovingly sovereign over all that happens in our lives and in the lives of those we love. He reminds us in Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” We do well to remember with Job, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Do the Best You Can — and Trust God

We are to do our part, of course. In 1 Chronicles 28:9, we find, with Solomon, that it is wise to “know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you.” And when we have been “found by him,” we can trust him with every part of our lives.

God has plans, and he accomplishes them. We have a part to play — working hard and well, but mostly in seeking him with our whole heart — but we must never forget that the result is always his.

We honor God and help others far more when we prayerfully focus our minds on doing, in love, the best job we are able — when we believe God is with us every step of the way, and then peacefully trust, rather than worry, that God will use our faithful efforts and his sovereign grace to accomplish his plans. After all, though they may not always be easy, his plans are always good and loving.

Greater Peace, Greater Glory

Give your mind a rest. Live in the joy that you are loved with an everlasting love, “and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). There will always be challenges and hard things, but there is peace in truly believing, at a foundational level, the reality of who you are in Christ and trusting God in every circumstance.

When we rest in this peace, we are not only more content; we glorify God by displaying Christ in a way that may even cause others to ask about our hope and strength. And if they do, we’ll be able to share Christ with greater confidence and joy.

God Wants to Win You from Within

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 8:02pm

God appeals to our desire. It’s one of the great awe-inspiring truths of the universe, from the warmth of the sun’s rays to cool, refreshing streams. From the everyday pleasures of sleep, food, drink, and family, to the special joys of holidays and changing seasons. From Genesis to Revelation.

How astounding that the divine himself appeals to human desire. When he could simply say, “I am God; just do what I say,” he seeks to win our obedience from the heart. He captures our inner person on the way to transforming our outer person. He gives reasons and rationale and makes his case, and at bottom appeals to our deepest and most enduring joy, rather than treating us as creatures of mere duty.

He does indeed call us to self-denial, but on what grounds? Few have said it better than C.S. Lewis:

The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.

Lewis enjoins us to enjoy this Jesus, not to live from a sense of duty: “Consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels.”

Long before Lewis, Jonathan Edwards lent his voice to Jesus’s charming of the human soul, not just commanding of the human body: “Jesus knew that all mankind were in the pursuit of happiness. He has directed them in the true way to it, and he tells them what they must become in order to be blessed and happy.”

Lose Your Life to Gain It

Even when Jesus commends self-denial, as Lewis mentions, he does so in a way that appeals to our holy sense of gain.

Perhaps the most surprising divine appeal to desire is Jesus’s seemingly paradoxical statement on gain and loss in Mark 8:36: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” The reason this text is so important is that self-denial is plainly in view: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). But Jesus doesn’t stop at self-denial and cross-bearing. He has more to say. He gives rationale. He doesn’t just command the outer person, but seeks to allure the inner. He appeals to desire:

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35)

Do you really want to keep your life? Then let it go. Release your death grip, and lose your life, that you might gain it. If you love your life in such a way that you are willing to lose it, then you will gain it. But if you love your life in such a way that you are not willing to lose it, then you will lose it.

Paradox of Gain and Loss

How are we not trapped in this matrix of self-love? Because there is a holy sense of gain. And from where does it come? A new heart. If we love our own lives in this world with a natural heart, we will cling to it and lose it in the end. But if we are led with born-again, new hearts, with supernatural desires — fed and empowered by the Spirit of God himself — then we will live from a holy sense of gain, and gain our lives in the process. Not earn, but gain, like Abraham, through the open, receptive arms of faith (Romans 4:1).

The best picture we have of a Christian living from such a heart of holy gain may be Paul in his letter to the Philippians. Twice he gives us a glimpse into the holy hedonism, or Christian Hedonism, that drives him.

Greatest Loss as Greatest Gain

First is Philippians 1:21: “to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He writes from prison, susceptible to the whims of pagan rulers. This could be it for Paul. At any moment, the word could come, “Off with his head.” But he suspects this is not yet the end for him, and anticipates being released (Philippians 1:25), because he senses Christ still has fruitful labor planned for him (Philippians 1:22, 25). But let the record show that his heart is ready, even desirous, to face the final foe in order to then come face-to-face with Gain incarnate: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23).

Paul has not died to every sense of gain, but is living for pure, righteous, ultimate gain as much as ever.

Losing All to Gain Christ

Second, then, is Philippians 3:7–8, just a few paragraphs later. He has just cataloged the many inherited and achieved reasons he would have for self-confidence. However, he says,

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

What is the very heart and essence of the eternal, spiritual, supernatural, holy gain Paul seeks? Christ himself. Not mere material gain, but ultimate relational gain. Not the gain of temporal possessions, but the gain of an eternal person. “To be with Christ is far better,” he says. It is “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ” that is the great animating soul and center of his sense of gain, and liberates him from two-bit, short-term, this-worldly gain to pursue and enjoy the deepest and most enduring gain: Jesus himself.

Go Hard After Holy Gain

When Jesus bids us, “Follow me,” he doesn’t call us to die to real joy, but to find it. Finally, at long last, the hidden treasure becomes ours (Matthew 13:44). Jesus doesn’t command us to squash true pleasures, but calls us not to be so easily pleased by our trinkets. He appeals to our desire. He made us for himself, heart included, and he seeks to win us from within, and change us from the inside out.

Will we embrace self-denial in this life? Necessarily. Happily. Eagerly. Because we know that in dying to ourselves, we will live more fully. And as we do, we’ll listen carefully as Christ shouts and whispers his shameless appeals to our holy gain. His promises are staggering and unblushing, and when he opens his mouth, whether in promise or command, he does so to encourage us in the pursuit of happiness and direct us in the true way to it.

If You Love God, Listen to Him: Five Reasons to Read the Bible Every Day

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 8:39am

Christians must be Bible people.

Over the years, I have spent many hours pleading with people to see that sentence as true. Sadly, it strikes many as novel, edgy — or worse, irrelevant.

Maybe it’s because those three words ring of one of the final taboo ideas left in our culture: fundamentalism. Immediately our postmodern minds go to the stodgy, three-piece-suit preachers of our grandparents’ generation, wagging their fingers with the “Good Book” in their hands.

Ours, we say, is an organic faith, not a rigid one filled with to-dos. Our Christianity is not a religion — it’s a relationship. We aren’t anti-Bible per se. There are many things in the Bible that have helped and inspired us over the years. We are against that earnest, rigorous, dirt-under-nails, restless consumption of the Bible. But what remains in a Christianity that doesn’t seriously engage God’s word? Sadly, a fluffy, pithy sentimentalism — a religion who’s entire belief system is more fit for a coffee mug than a catechism.

I want to give you five good reasons to find your life in the Bible for the rest of your life. Before you get into God’s word, remember that becoming Bible-literate is not about being smarter, or beefing up your spiritual resume, or lording your knowledge over others. It’s about looking through the pages to the Savior on the other side. Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39–40). It’s about seeing and savoring Jesus Christ through his word. We don’t worship the font. We worship the Father.

1. You cannot love God, and not listen to him.

When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38). You cannot love him with all your heart, soul, and mind without a steady diet of Scripture.

Just as our heart must be engaged in treasuring God supremely, our mind must be equally engaged in thinking of God rightly. Wrong thoughts about God produce wrong love for God. As Jen Wilkin says, “The heart can’t love what the mind doesn’t know.”

The apostle Paul routinely connects our love for God and others with a growing knowledge of him. “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9–11).

We only come to love God more by knowing more of him. And we learn more about our God — his attributes, his nature, and his promises — by listening to his word.

2. Your faith needs promises to survive.

When Paul sought to encourage his sheepish son in the faith, Timothy, as he was pastoring the church in Ephesus, he used the strongest weapon in his arsenal to do so: the gospel.

Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:8–10)

Commenting on this passage, John Piper says, “The cure for wimpy Christians is weighty doctrine.” Paul provides rich truth as the cure for Timothy’s timid faith. And his cure is our cure: sound doctrine revealed to us in the Bible. Watch your trust in him grow as you anchor yourself to a thousand of his promises by hearing his voice daily.

3. We become like what we behold.

My 5-year-old daughter looked at me and my wife last week and announced, “When I grow up, I wanna be a singer and a mommy!” Now where on earth did she get such an ambition? Could it be that the two adults she spends most of her time with just happen to be a singer and a mommy? Here lies a truth as old as the Bible itself:

We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

We become like what we behold. Gazing at God in his word, by the power of his Spirit, has a transforming effect on our heart, mind, and life. In time, those of us who do as David does and “set the Lord continually before” ourselves will find our interests become God’s interests (Psalm 16:8 NASB). We’ll find that the sinful things we formerly loved are suddenly less attractive. We’ll find holiness beginning to bloom in our lives. We’ll find that we are starting to look more like Christ. His means for your Christlikeness is his word.

4. You will only find the joy you want in words.

Jesus spends a chapter and a half in the Gospel of John instructing and exhorting his disciples. In the middle of his sermon, he says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Jesus tells his disciples that what he’s telling his disciples is for their joy!

Every word of Christ is meant for your eternal happiness. There is nothing that motivates a person more than their happiness, and we find it here in black and white. Your forever happiness is directly tied to what Jesus has to say to you.

We should hang on every word. And he has given us so many words — words of promise for our joy, words of warning for our joy, words of encouragement for our joy. Words, words, and more words, all for our joy in him, forever.

5. There is work to be done.

Paul tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

So many modern (especially young) Christians have a desire to go and do for God over and above knowing God. With so much injustice and inequality in the world, it’s hard for many of us to justify lingering for an hour over forty words a dead author wrote two thousand years ago. But Paul’s words couldn’t be clearer: If we want to be about the work of God, we must first be about the word of God.

God’s word reveals to us his priorities and values. It shows us what breaks his heart and what makes him sing. It shows us what he is doing in the world — throughout history and right now today.

The Bible teaches us that God loves the forgotten and the misfit. It shows us the value of shepherding our families. It introduces us to the generosity of other Christians (2 Corinthians 8:1–7), and calls us to be openhanded with what God gives us. It heralds the sanctity of every human life and inspires us to fight for the unborn. It declares that race should not be a barrier to Christian unity, but a beautiful occasion for it. We become equipped for every good work in the Bible.

There is gold here for us if we will only press in while we read. There is so much more to be had than the comfort offered in Coffee Mug Christianity. If you want to live for Christ and enjoy him for a lifetime, and then forever in eternity, soak yourself in this Book.

One Hope for Unity

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 8:00am

We will never have racial reconciliation without the gospel, and we deny the gospel itself if we reject reconciliation. We can never separate root and fruit.

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Make It Easy for Your Kids to Love God: Proverbs for a Happy Home

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 8:02pm

The most famous parenting verse in the book of Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). That’s great to know. But the book of Proverbs has much more to say to parents. Proverbs offers deeper insights that will spare our families pain and will give our families joy. It shows us more clearly “the way a child should go.”

Proverbs 8 takes us back to the happiness God felt when he created the world. The author looks at Genesis 1:31 — “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” — stares at that verse for a while, and then writes Proverbs 8:22–31, with its joyous vision of God the Creator. Here is the choicest part, where Wisdom personified speaks as God’s partner in crafting the world:

“ . . . then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” (Proverbs 8:30–31)

How then does Proverbs 8 help us parents? It whispers to us the open secret revealed throughout creation. God’s cheerful wisdom is displayed in the simple realities of everyday human life, including family life. In our psychology and relationships and sexuality and finances, and so forth, God’s wisdom is how everything we care about actually works, for his glory.

Therefore, one of our primary tasks as parents is to impart to our children this shining awareness and positive expectancy, as we walk together through this good world of God’s making.

Home: A Place to Be Happily Human

Christian parents who believe the book of Proverbs make peace with their earthliness. They aren’t embarrassed by how God made them. After all, God isn’t sorry he made us human rather than angelic. He rejoiced when he created us. Yes, we have suffered Adam’s horrible fall. Yes, we are sinful. But sin is not inherent in family life — in playing board games, and taking walks, and doing homework, and taking a nap, and working a job. Even on this side of the fall, “everything created by God is good” (1 Timothy 4:4). Christian parents instructed by the book of Proverbs delight in that truth, and they impart their settled happiness to their children.

Should we parents also warn our kids about the land mines the devil has buried here in God’s world? Of course. The book of Proverbs includes plenty of warnings. For example:

Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. (Proverbs 6:27–29)

But that is not a warning against God’s gift of human sexuality; it is a warning against the foolish violation of God’s gift. Some parents seem so afraid their children might sin, they smother their home with excessive caution. They give their kids the impression that our created reality is somehow beneath God’s approval. These über-conscientious parents sincerely love their kids, but they harm their kids with a narrow-minded denial of God’s life-affirming goodness. And they inadvertently position their kids for hypocrisy later in life. John Buchan, the Scottish author, wrote, “If you tell a man that honest pleasure is a sin in God’s sight, he finds a way to get the pleasure and yet keep the name for godliness. And, mind you, the pleasures he enjoys with a doubtful conscience will not long remain honest.”

How different is the outlook of Proverbs 8:22–31! The happiness of God freeing our consciences creates glorious moments like this one in the life of Charles Spurgeon, during a visit from the American pastor Theodore Cuyler:

After a hard day of work and serious discussion, these two mighty men of God went out into the country together for a holiday. They roamed the fields in high spirits like boys let loose from school, chatting and laughing and free from care. Dr. Cuyler had just told a story at which Mr. Spurgeon laughed uproariously. Then suddenly he turned to Dr. Cuyler and exclaimed, “Theodore, let’s kneel down and thank God for laughter!” And there, on the green carpet of grass, under the trees, two of the world’s greatest men knelt and thanked the dear Lord for the bright and joyous gift of laughter.

Have your children ever heard you thank the dear Lord for his bright and joyous gift of laughter? If not, why not? Where is the wisdom of God in a gloomy home? Have you, by faith in Christ, accepted how he created you — a human being, a social being, an eating and working and playing and parenting being? If not, you can do so right now, in reverent submission to the word of God. You can start today to bring the joy of God into your home.

Home: A Place to Experience God’s Goodness

God blessed me with a boyhood home defined by his wisdom. For example, when my dad walked into the house around dinner time, he always did the same thing. First, he went over to my mom and kissed her — and not a peck on the cheek. He gave her a serious, Christian kiss on the lips! Then he turned to me and said, “Come on, Skip! Let’s wrestle!” And we’d go to the living room and get down on the floor and wrestle and tickle and laugh and play. My dad saw life with the wholesome outlook of Proverbs 8. And I couldn’t resist the beauty of it.

When my wife and I began our own journey as young parents, one of the questions we asked was this: What is ultimate reality? And as we thought it through, we remembered how Moses prayed, “Please show me your glory,” and how God answered, “I will make all my goodness pass before you” (Exodus 33:18–19). So we thought, Okay then, ultimate reality is the glorious goodness of God!

We therefore set out to make our little home — 424 Bush Street, Mountain View, California — a miniature experience of the glorious goodness of God for our children. We wanted our home to make it easy for our kids to love God. We organized our home, as best we knew how, as a positive, humane, God-indwelt experience, with gentleness, sincerity, prayer, Bible stories, fun, a healthy diet, good books, and so forth — the obvious basics that make a home a place where a child can sense the goodness of God.

Home: A Place to Pursue Our Highest Joy

Is there such a thing as foolishly permissive parenting? Yes. Some of us need more backbone for those moments when we must say to our kids, “No!” And when they answer back, “But all the other families at church are okay with it,” we then say, “But we aren’t all the other families. We are the Ortlunds, and we aren’t doing that.”

But there is also such a thing as foolishly restrictive parenting. And those among us who are in earnest with the Lord, who are serious-minded and conscientious — our tendency can be an unbiblical narrowness.

The crazy thing is, it creates the very opposite of what we desire for our children. When they get old enough to think for themselves, and they begin experiencing more of God’s creation, they start thinking, Wait a minute. Dad and Mom steered me away from that. But it isn’t wrong. I wonder how else Dad and Mom misled me?

Wise parents rejoice in God’s glorious goodness, revealed throughout his creation, while also adding in warnings along the way. But it’s the difference between the banner headline and the second paragraph down in the story. Don’t reverse that order and that emphasis. It’s not only your kids who deserve a wholesome introduction to life in God’s world; it is God who deserves to be glorified and enjoyed by your children as the great Giver of countless good things here and hereafter.

Your children need something more than to be fortified against sin. They need to be inspired toward God. Tell them, with all the confidence that Proverbs 8 warrants, of his joyous wisdom across the whole of life. Prove to them, by the very ethos of your home, that the Lord is good. Let them see that faith in you, and the glory of the Lord will be hard for them to resist.

Can We Skip the Parts of the New Testament Not in the Original Manuscripts?

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 8:00pm

The first manuscripts of the Bible no longer exist, but that doesn’t need to shake Christians’ faith. Pastor John gives three reasons why.

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Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 9:30am

Christian preaching is a God-appointed means of transforming its hearers in both head and heart — not only in intellect, but also in affections.

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